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March, 2012

  1. Canary Wharf’s Obikà

    March 18, 2012 by Dini

    Mozzarella in the City

    11th March 2012

    Not quite in the City, but in the business hub that is Canary Wharf, where the suited City Slickers either dart to grab a quick bite to eat or languish in restaurants, ‘wining and dining’ Clients…

    Invited by Ms. Lapanovich (Obikà’s GM), to dine there for lunch, I was quite curious about what exactly a Mozzarella ‘bar’ was all about. So, it seemed was everyone else, my invited guest, five of my Canary Wharf working friends (who had never heard of it, I have a feeling they stick to the safety of Plateau, Boisdale & Roka). Even the TFL employee (who I sought directions from, at the station) said on my asking of the ‘Italian’ restaurant: “What that Mozzarella place? I’m partial to a bit of Mozzarella, but a whole menu of the stuff, not sure about that…”

    Obikà derived from the Neapolitan dialect, means “Here it is” … slap bang in the middle of a Canary Wharf concourse it was indeed, with the luxury of a deli, island bar and surrounding tables, quite an investment for the Italian company, with multiple sites already, across the globe.


    We opted for a bottle of Tierre di Sant Alberto Prosecco (Valdese) which was light and refreshing and a jug of tap water to reign in our Sunday lunch excess.

    ProseccoIt was either the Prosecco or the Lurisia artisanal beer for me, as the wine selection didn’t tempt. unlike those on Opera Tavern’s list.

    Bufala classica with Caponata alla Siciliana

    This was delicious, a balance of the Caponata’s [sweet (with sultanas) and sour notes (vinegar and capers)] contrasted against the creaminess of the classic mozzarella. I was ‘instructed’ by the Waitress not to dress my mozzarella with black pepper, olive oil or balsamic, as this would detract from the cheese. This was fine as I had the flavoursome accompaniment of the caponata, however had it been solo with just the undressed spinach leaves, it would have been a little bland. In addition, we had shards of Pane Carasau (a Sardinian bread, which I can only describe as being like a poppadom), handy for scooping with.

    Bufala classica e Caponate alla Siciliana

    Insalate: Prosciutto Coto e Spinaci

    This came in a glass bowl, undressed, with a mountain of salad leaves. This time I had no instruction, was I ‘allowed’ to dress the salad?, was she going to do it?, was I suppossed to do it in the bowl? …. Too many questions, I just wanted a simple lunch. Perhaps, it would be good for the staff to ask if we’d like the salad to be dressed or put a small jug of dressing on the side, so we can add, as we please. After this debacle and creating a dressing mysef, I did like the textures of crunchy walnut, soft Prosciutto (dry cured from Parma) and leaves against the oozingly soft cheese. I’m so glad this was mixed leaves unlike the dishes’ description, as I found the spinach leaves (aforementioned, a little acrid when undressed).

    Prosciutto Cotto e Spinaci


    Dalla Cucina – Tortino di Riso

    I’d never had this dish before, so I was intrigued to try it. Inside the encasing of aubergine laid arborio rice with smoked mozzarella, accompanied with pesto. The pesto was fresh and was a good contrast to the cheesy rice. I was told the texture was not supposed to be wet like a risotto but more of a dry, baked effect. It was nice to try, but I think I’ll stick to my favourite classic of Parmigiana di Melazane.

    Tortino di Riso

    Pizze – Salmone e Ricotta

    This was on a flat base, my favourite, but there was a lot of crust wastage (see gallery), because there was no oozing sauce. I’m a hater of waste, so this made me a little sad. We were told afterwards that we could have requested for pesto, but alas it was too late. The ricotta was delicious creamy and rich serenading the delightful Forman & Field smoked salmon. My dining guest, had only that week been to Forman’s Fish Island to visit them and get a first hand view of the slicing of their salmon. I prefer pizza’s that pack a punch and would have opted for the nduja one instead, my guest wasn’t so keen (my loss, I guess one has to make compromises when sharing). I’m told by an Italian work colleague, that the Neapolitan’s prefer simple pizza’s, allowing the core ingredients to sing… this pizza follows that ethos.

    Pizza - Salmone e Ricotta

    Dolci: Degustazione di Dolci

    This comprised of Buffalo Ricotta cream, gently folded with toasted pine nuts, candied orange peel and honey. It was thick and rich, a few spoonfuls were just enough.

    Crema di Ricotta


    This Tiramisù , I’m told was layered with mascarpone and egg white, but for me it was much lighter, like a zabaglione topping, sitting afloat of espresso drenched Savoiardi. There was no Marsala in sight, but that’s a good thing, as in a small glass like this, it might have been overpowering.


    Torta di Capri

    A crumbly torte, jammed pack full of rich, dark chocolate and almonds. This for me, could have done with being served with a scoop of gelato or mascarpone (thankfully I ordered a scoop)…

    Torta di Capri

    Gelato Artigianale:

    A single scoop of Pistachio gelato (as I simply can’t resist this, it’s truly my benchmark flavour for rating a good gelato) complimented the Torta, by adding a creamy contrast.

    Pistachio Gelato

     Their gelato’s are sourced from Oddono’s (which is my absolute favourite London supplier for Pistachio gelato). Their version is light in colour, due to using natural nuts from Sicily and not adding any artificial colourings. It has a good texture, with pistachio nuts churned through it. I’d probably say that it’s the best way to finish off a meal there, as I had ‘work’ to do that night, I skipped dessert wines.

    Having taken the time to speak to Obikà’s GM, I get the concept more and what they’re trying to achieve and encourage Brits to try more. Yes they have ‘classics’ that I have grown up with from Italian restaurants over here, but also introducing new dishes and their wanting us to be more ‘hands-on’ in dressing our own salads.

    In terms of their specialisation – Mozzarella, I thought the quality was great, having tried their Classic and Smoked and displayed in tanks, for all to view. Another trip is in order to try their Burrata (from Andria), which is one of my guilty pleasures. One last note, on Obikà’s serviceware, it’s sourced from the rather classy Broste from Copenhagen. Beautiful crockery sets, that display the dishes with grace.

    Thank you Ms. Lapanovich for the meal for two, I’ll be back with my own credit card, for burrata and perhaps a scoop of gelato and to @mcginners (my dining co-hort).


    Obikà Mozzarella Bar: Unit 1 West Wintergarden, 35 Bank Street, E14 5NW

    Tel no: 0207 719 1532



    Obika on Urbanspoon

  2. Hawksmoor Bar Spitalfields

    March 9, 2012 by Dini

    Triple Cooked Chips on the Side?

    8th March 2012

    Groaning in the underbelly of Spitalfields, are the new tables laiden with bar-snacks in Hawksmoor’s ‘bar downstairs’. I say groaning, because the amount we ordered on a ‘soft-launch’ night (where the food was 50% off), pretty much overtook the table. In fact, a trolley or secondary table may have come in use.

    Our Waiter for the night was James, a consummate professional, who was knowledgeable, courteous, attentive and cute as a button (a rarity in London). My guest had a theatre booking, so we warned him we were on a mission to have ‘food’, ‘sides’ and ‘pudding’ as per the menu in 2 hours, he didn’t fail to deliver on that.

    The decor is cosy, a kind of mish-mash of speakeasy meets a Jacques Cousteau submarine, with leather banquette booths and metallic walls.

    Downstairs Decor

    I wasn’t keen on the seating options, for smaller groups – high bar tables with bar-stools, not necessarily the easiest for dining (even if bar snacks), but fine for drinking.

    Cocktails were first on order and two classics to start the night with a bang. I opted for:

    Shaky Pete's Ginger Brew

    Shaky Pete's Ginger Brew

    (a fiery blend of Gin, Ginger and London Pride) and my guest had a

    Green & Red Margarita

    Green & Red Margarita

    (alas, she was disappointed by the lack of a salt rim, but a good execution all the same).


    Short rib French dip

    Short Rib French Dip

    A new and very welcome addition to menu came in the form of the Short rib French dip, soft brioche sandwiching cheese, short ribs and then dunked in a rich gloopy beef and onion flavoured gravy… Delicious.


    Lobster roll

    Lobster Roll

    I can’t compare this roll to Burger & Lobster’s, at same priced £20 offering, as I haven’t been yet. I’m not sure I’d like B&L’s as their dip is coriander based (one of my pet hates). So for now, I’m more than content with this billowy brioche roll, with great chunks of lobster and a delicious drawn butter dip. I have to say that we were given very generous gravy boats full of dips, I could have set up an IV tube for an infusion of them both.

    Triple cooked chips

    Triple Cooked Chips

    “Chips, Glorious Chips”… usually the case, but not in this case. They were crisp but not really soft inside, they were a little dehydrated if anything, something had gone awry from the blanching to refrying stage. I’m not sure what had been used for frying (oil, dripping or fat), but the best I’ve had still remains as The Young Turks’ in beef dripping (even better than Heston’s).

    One stand out ‘food’ item ordered was the Tamworth Laab.

    Tamworth Laab

    Tamworth Laab

    I haven’t had this dish since visiting Laos a few years ago, so a welcome trip down memory lane. It consists of spiced minced pork, dressed with fish sauce, fresh herbs and served in fresh gem type lettuce leaves. You scoop the pork into the leaves, a little like tacos. These had a little zing, but were refreshing, perhaps a virtuous change from the other calorific options.


    Onto the main business of desserts (for me). To be honest I could have opted for everything, quite easily, but as I was on a budget and time constraint, we opted for the above and a Chocolate Malt Tart.

    Chocolate Malt Tart

    Surprisingly the Tart was the lightest of the two, with a delicious mousse, but the pastry required a sledgehammer.

    Peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice-cream

    The shortbread was the opposite, too ‘short’ a mix too flaky.  The combination of the salted caramel, peanut butter and surprise chocolate centre were divine on paper, but none of the flavours seemed to sing through. Even so, as a desserts fiend, I scoffed the lot and ended my meal with a contented tummy.

    I didn’t try the burgers, as I knew from other diners that the ‘Umami’ burger wasn’t available (which would have been my pick). I was discouraged from ordering burgers by other bloggers, as knew that rare/medium rare isn’t an option, they have to comply with H&S regs and serve up medium to well done.

    There are so many tempting treats on the bar menu, to draw you in. If anything I’m yearning already to go back and taste the short rib nuggets (with a kimchee ketchup), Sausage & Egg HkMuffin (a take on McDonalds’ dirty brekkie), the Chicken burger (another newbie), washed down with a cornflake milkshake… oh oh, cardiac arrest on a plate!

    I’ve cheekily used photos from Hawksmoor’s website, as it is so dim in the bar, my photo’s were somewhat flawed, so ‘Thanks’ for the lovely shots

    Hawksmoor Spitalfields: 157 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
    Telephone No: 020 7426 4856